A transparent advisory process

Highlighting our commitment to the ecosystem approach, ICES publishes a new advisory framework with the basis for both advice requests on fishing opportunities and ecosystem, environmental, and broader scale advice.
Published: 30 April 2021

​​​​​​​​Each year, ICES receives requests to provide advice on a growing range of issues, from marine environmental policies to the management of marine living resources including fisheries policy. As we lead and respond to calls to support ecosystem based management, our advice framework needs to evolve and integrate. The “General context of ICES advice" that has been the basis of ICES advice for many years was drawn up to address advice regarding the management of the exploitation of living marine resources – primarily fisheries. For the past four years, our Advisory Committee (ACOM), who are responsible for all ICES advice, has been developing a more appropriate framework that incorporates the ecosystem approach in all sectors.

Our recently published ICES Advisory Plan establishes the ecosystem approach as the key to how we provide independent advice on the management of human activities in our seas and oceans – and the key to a sustainable future. It provides a vision for how our advice can remain resilient in the face of future challenges. Andrew Clayton, Project Director, Ending Overfishing in Northwestern Europe, The Pew Trusts comments that“Establishing the ecosystem approach as the central tenet that governs ICES scientific advice processes is exactly what is needed to provide the right information to member countries and intergovernmental organizations, to enable them to manage human activities sustainably."

Ten guiding principles

In 2020, we published a new Guide to ICES advisory framework and principles, providing a robust framework for our advisory process. Embedded within this guide are ten overarching principles, which will be applied to each and every request for advice we receive: all recurrent advice, special requests, and overviews as well as to all advice subjects, including fishing opportunities, seabed impact, methods for analysing contaminants and renewable energy and many more.

“When you read the Guide, I hope that you will see why I think that the ten principles are such a huge step for us", states Mark Dickey-Collas, Chair of ICES Advisory Committee, as they allow us to move from a fisheries focused framework into a broader advice framework, one that encourages ecosystem-based management across all sectors."

An ecosystem-based management framework

To accompany the Guide to ICES advisory framework and principles and underpinning our commitment to the principles of the ecosystem approach, two new guides have been published that address the two major areas of ICES advice; one explains the basis and approach that is taken with advice requests on fishing opportunities (Advice on fishing opportunities) and the other explains the basis and approach that is taken with ecosystem, environmental, and broader scale advice requests (Advice on ecosystem services and effects). 

While ICES provides annual advice on vulnerable marine ecosystems and bycatch of protected species, there are an increasing number of one-off advice requests related to ecosystem service and effects. Recent requests have addressed new substances and/or chemicals of concern that are being introduced to the marine environment, monitoring of marine food webs, the potential effects of renewable energy developments, and  the potential effects of electric or pulse bottom-trawl fishing on the marine environment among others.​

Dickey-Collas hopes that by providing the rationale and basis for our advice, as well as descriptions of the methods used, there is transparency in our advisory process.

Speaking to the Marine Alliance for Science & Technology for Scotland (MASTS), where he explored the lessons learnt by ICES as we transform to demands and expectations from both decision-makers and people impacted by the decisions, Dickey-Collas took the opportunity to present the ​ten guiding principles of ICES advisory process.​ 


Through our advice, ICES strives to advance and share scientific understanding of marine ecosystems and the services they provide to meet conservation, management, and sustainability goals.

Current recipients of ICES advice include the European Commission's Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Directorate-General for Environment, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO), the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), the OSPAR Commission (OSPAR), and the governments of IcelandNorway and the UK​.

All the latest ICES advice can be found online.​​

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A transparent advisory process

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